VTO needs increased budget

VTO General Manager Adela Aru (left) needs increased budget to market Vanuatu abroad with new products produced by Department of Tourism and Acting Director Donald Pelam

By Len Garae

“We’ve reviewed our business plan and say let’s not put all our eggs in our core markets but let’s also focus on our emerging markets because in the last two years, different markets have been coming in and in the international visitor survey of 2016, we find that even though China is only 2% of our (tourism) market, in terms of yield, they spend,$1,982 per person in the duration of their stay with us which is more than the typical visitor from our core markets.”

VTO General Manager, Adela Aru, makes the statement to prove that it is not whether her Office attracts 8,000 visitors from China but Chinese tourists spend more money than visitors from the core markets.

For this reason while the annual budget of Vt150 million for VTO is nowhere near the amounts major competitors Fiji and Samoa spend to promote their countries to the world, she suggests that it would be helpful if additional budget could be included to promote the emerging Chinese market.

The dilemma of the Vanuatu Tourism Office and Department of Tourism is that on one hand, the Government is asking Acting Director of Tourism, Donald Pelam to introduce more new products and activities to entice more visitors to come to Vanuatu while on the other, the Government is not increasing the VTO budget to convince the visitors to come.

The VTO General Manager says her Office and Pelam’s Office work hand in hand and one cannot go without the other.

“If the Department introduces its programme to encourage niche markets for eco-tourism, agri-tourism, adventure tourism or marine tourism and encourage ni Vanuatu to invest in such projects then how are they going to benefit from their products when there is no increased budget to promote those products overseas?”, she asks.

The Department of Tourism and Vanuatu Tourism Office have confirmed a solid partnership between their Offices to promote the country to the world as the best destination for visitors.

Acting Director Donald Pelam says the role of his Department is to develop then certify new products and activities for visitors to come to Vanuatu to enjoy.

It is the duty of General Manager of Vanuatu Tourism Office, Adela Aru, to use the new products and activities to market Vanuatu to the world.

VTO was set up in 1984 as the National Tourism Office to promote Vanuatu as a tourist destination following the country’s independence in 1980.

The Vanuatu Tourism Development Office was set up to pioneer what the Department of Tourism is doing today. The former Vanuatu Trade Commissioner to Australia was recalled from Sydney to become the Acting Director of Tourism only last June.

He confirms, “We are responsible for product development which must be certified before they are handed over to VTO to market overseas”.

At present, there are 200 products and activities operating in the country.

Pelam’s Department is responsible for the Accreditation Programme to ensure a product or bungalow achieves the required standard before it can be sold.

His Department has developed a tourism development structure that connects with the six Provincial Tourism Councils to administer tourism products and activities in the islands.

Pelam encourages investment partnerships in the communities saying the way to go is for a local landowner or business owner to go into partnership with a foreign investor.

“If a ni-Vanuatu has no funding then he can partner with an expatriate who has the money.

“They can agree to a 50% equal share of the business. This is to avoid unfair dealings,” Pelam says. Also The Department works with all stakeholders to promote Cruise Tourism in Sanma, Torba, Shefa and Tafea Provinces.

In Port Vila the Tourism ambassador Programme has trained126 drivers while another 252 drivers are waiting to enroll.

“We need to certify our drivers to drive our visitors because they are the first to welcome our visitors on arrival and the last to farewell them at either the wharf or airport,” Pelam concludes.

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